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The Power of Now
Tuesday, November 22, 2016
The NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) filed a brief in the Texas district court, contending that SB 14, the nation’s strictest photo ID law—which an appellate court already determined disproportionately and discriminatorily impacts Black and Latino voters—was enacted, at least in part, with discriminatory intent. In July, the en banc Fifth Circuit upheld the trial court’s determination that this law violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but also sent the case back to the district court to consider whether Texas adopted its photo ID law with a discriminatory purpose. LDF Associate Director-Counsel Janai Nelson, who argued this case before the en banc Fifth Circuit Court, commented on the recent filing:
“LDF has fought vigorously to eradicate SB 14 in its entirety since we filed our legal challenge to this law in 2013. We are wholly dedicated to achieving a court ruling that abolishes this stringent photo ID law that Texas designed, in part, to limit the voting strength of Black and Latino Texans. In direct response to the growing numbers of Blacks and Latinos in Texas and persistent, polarized, voting along racial lines, Texas’s leadership intentionally designed a law to prevent minority voters from exercising their fundamental right to equal access to the ballot.”
Following a determination by a super-majority of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals that SB 14 has a discriminatory effect on minority Texans, the district court ordered Texas to implement a remedial process for the November election that provided voters who did not possess and could not reasonably obtain a SB 14 photo ID, the opportunity to vote a regular ballot. Importantly, the Fifth Circuit noted that “the record contained evidence that could support a finding of discriminatory intent.” The state of Texas is seeking review of that decision by the United States Supreme Court.
“We cannot continue to have a watered-down version of SB 14 in place like we did for the 2016 general election,” said LDF’s Senior Counsel Leah Aden. “This law was initially created with the purpose of restricting the voting rights of communities of color in Texas and it must be struck down permanently. Texas’s strict photo ID law was created in the guise of preventing virtually non-existent voter fraud—a motive used repeatedly throughout Texas’s history as a pretextual justification for discriminatory voting measures—and thus is a solution in search of a problem.”
“Until Texas’s photo ID law is struck down in its entirety, Texans still face the absurd reality that—by Texas’s design—people can freely vote with a handgun license, but, in most cases, not a student ID card,” added LDF Assistant Counsel Deuel Ross. “Like the all-white primary, literacy tests, poll taxes, annual re-registration requirement, and voter purges of the past, Texas’s photo ID law of today must not stand.”
LDF is litigating this case with co-counsel Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, as well as teams of attorneys at the U.S. Department of Justice, the Campaign Legal Center, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, the Brennan Center, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, and others.
For more information about this case and about LDF’s work to eradicate Texas’s discriminatory photo ID law, click here.
Founded in 1940, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is the nation’s first civil and human rights law organization and has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund or LDF.